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“Wearing masks is the new holding doors,” JMU said in a recent tweet.

This is just one of the rules JMU has implemented to keep students, faculty and staff safe as the move back to campus nears. The University Recreation Center, also known as UREC, is taking similar precautions to slow the spread of COVID-19. Anna Hiner, senior justice studies major and inclusive recreation manager at UREC, was working at the facility in July when the staff decided to make changes to achieve a new and safe “normal” for gym goers.

“We were closed for most of the summer, obviously, because a gym is not the cleanest place if you follow normal procedures, so the staff decided to come up with three different models of what we could possibly do in the fall,” Hiner said. “We were open for the last three weeks of July, and each week we tested a different model.”

Hiner said all three models were similar and that they varied in how long UREC should remain open each day as well as when they’d have cleaning periods. Sophie Waugh, junior nursing major and lifeguard at UREC, said the first model had three 90-minute workout periods where one signed up for a specific activity or space online, each followed by a 30-minute cleaning period. After each 90-minute workout period, UREC closed and the staff cleaned the equipment that might’ve been touched, Hiner said.

Eric Nickel, director of UREC, said the second model still had people make an appointment for whichever time slot they wanted. However, it wasn’t for a specific activity, just for general entry to the building. This model had a two-hour workout period followed by a one-hour cleaning period. He said an issue with the first two models was that people would form a line outside while waiting for their time slot.

“If that line extrapolated out to during the semester and we had many more people trying to get in, it wouldn’t be a good solution,” Nickel said. “We got some feedback [on the first model] where people said, ‘Well sometimes people like to do more than one thing and that it was a little restrictive.’”

Hiner said in the third model, UREC was open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. without periods of closing, and the staff would clean throughout the day rather than having mid-day cleaning periods. Students would still have to make appointments, but they weren’t limited to a certain time constraint and the staff still had to adhere to capacity, which is about 235, Nickel said.

“Everyone was really good about wearing masks,” Waugh said. “In the pool area, a lot of participants would come up to me and say that when they saw the cleaning breaks happening they felt really safe and protected.”

In addition to a different model for working out, UREC has also stated that individuals must wear a mask when entering the building and keep it on as they walk through different hallways. Masks can be removed when you’re swimming in the pool, on cardiovascular equipment, in a racquetball court or in selected group exercise classes, according to the UREC COVID-19 plan on JMU’s website.

“Most of the hallways are labeled one way now just to help with the traffic in the building and social distancing,” Hiner said. “A lot of the group ex classes have been moved to the gyms so everyone can be more spaced out.”

Nickel said the aerosol droplets are what they’re trying to control, so the use of masks is one of the best safety measures that they’ve implemented. To avoid contagion, Nickel said Freshens won’t be open in UREC so the staff won’t have to worry about unmasked people eating.

“We’re trying to eliminate the social hanging out thing and just trying to let folks get their exercise and then move on out,” Nickel said.

He said the student staff will constantly be cleaning equipment as well as encouraging gym goers to clean after themselves. UREC also increased the number of sanitizer and wipe stations to promote a cleaner gym environment.

“One of the things we hope to teach is self-efficacy — assume something you’re touching is contaminated, and don’t touch your face until you wash your hands or get to an alcohol station,” Nickel said. “Not just in UREC, but for all students coming back.”

Contact Isabela Gladston at gladstia@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.